Localized Misinformation in a Global Pandemic: Report on COVID-19 Narratives around the World

Publication Year
Empirical Studies of Conflict Project

The global reach of the pandemic creates a unique opportunity for a regional analysis of misinformation trends, allowing us to see how misinformation actors in different countries and cultural contexts respond to the same set of potential narrative conditions. Are the observed trends in misinformation similar or different? How is the pandemic interwoven with existing social narratives at the domestic and regional level to create new and potent misinformation? How does the regional spread of COVID-19 misinformation interact with regional and domestic fact-checking efforts, and how effective is the latter in curbing misinformation spread? This report will explore those questions while examining COVID-related misinformation, disinformation, and fact-checking capabilities in different regions around the world using data collected by the ESOC team on 5,613 distinct misinformation stories from the early days of the pandemic through the end of December 2020. Analysis of these stories reveals surprising patterns. Most importantly, we find that there is a great deal of heterogeneity in the nature of misinformation and disinformation across regions and countries. Contrary to what one might expect from the globalized nature of the information environment, the salient themes varied significantly across different regions and countries. Localized false narratives prevailed over global ones. 


Samikshya Siwakoti, Kamya Yadav, Isra Thange, Nicola Bariletto, Luca Zanotti, Alaa Ghoneim, and Jacob N. Shapiro. Localized Misinformation in a Global Pandemic: Report on COVID-19 Narratives around the World. Empirical Study of Conflict, Princeton University, pages 1-68, March 2021. URL https://esoc.princeton.edu/publications/localized-misinformation-global-pandemic-report-covid-19-narratives-around-world

Publication Topic
Politics and Public Opinion
Publication Type
Policy Report